In pre-war Italy, a young couple have a baby boy. The father, however, is jealous of his son - and the scene moves to antiquity, where the baby is taken into the desert to be killed. He is ... See full summary »
Mamma Roma is a middle-aged whore of Roma. Now she can quit her job to become a fruit seller. And she can take back her 16-year-old son, Ettore. For him, she dreams of a good position. But ... See full summary »
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Paul Javal is a writer who is hired to make a script for a new movie about Ulysses more commercial, which is to be directed by Fritz Lang and produced by Jeremy Prokosch. But because he let... See full summary »
To win the kingdom his uncle took from his father, Jason must steal the golden fleece from the land of barbarians, where Medea is royalty and a powerful sorceress, where human sacrifice ... See full summary »
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cold, rain, and fog surround a plant in Ravenna. Factory waste pollutes local lakes; hulking anonymous ships pass or dock and raise quarantine flags. Guiliana, a housewife married to the ... See full summary »
Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer -- arrogant, caustic, and self-satisfied. She mistreats Marlene (her secretary, maid, and co-designer). Enter Karin, a 23-year-old beauty who... See full summary »
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
How do we understand faith and prayer, and what of miracles? August 1925 on a Danish farm. Patriarch Borgen has three sons: Mikkel, a good-hearted agnostic whose wife Inger is pregnant, ... See full summary »
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Emil Hass Christensen,
Preben Lerdorff Rye
In a seedy section of Rome, Vittorio Cataldi - "Accattone" ("beggar" in Italian) to those that know him - lives off the avails of prostitution, Maddalena being his one and only girl. He is married to Ascenza with who he has one young son named Iaio, but he does not live with them - they who live with her father and brother - provide for them, or play any important part of their lives. He generally hangs out with his similarly slack life friends playing cards and drinking. His source of income is threatened when Maddalena is injured being hit by a motorcyclist, then beaten by rivals of his, which leads to her being arrested and jailed for a year. Largely because of Iaio, Accattone contemplates going straight and getting a real job. Then he meets Stella, a young innocent woman who has had a hard life, but who is not as naive to the ways of the world as she first appears. Accattone falls in love with her, but as the thought of working a steady job now becomes abhorrent, contemplates ... Written by
Accattone is a Neo-Realist examination of slovenly irresponsibility, tastelessness and self-pity - you know, the fun stuff. Its principal characters, a group of young upwardly-immobile Roman males, are almost uniformly repulsive, a lot of chest-baring half-savages whose idea of fun is luring a whore to a deserted spot and beating her to within an inch of her life. Its hero, Accattone, is played by one of the more unpleasant actors in the history of film, a fellow named Franco Citti, who manages to single-handedly set the entire nation of Italy back about two-hundred years. It is a film of almost relentless despair, depicting a Rome so desolate and squalid, so bereft of hope, that it seems almost medieval. In the hands of almost any director the movie would be unbearable - either unbearably sentimental or unbearably grim
but with Pasolini at the helm it is merely honest.
It isn't Pasolini's best film by a long way, but it may be the clearest example of what made the director so special - his ability to probe around the most revolting recesses of the human condition without seeming sensationalistic, exploitive or crass. It would be easy to go one of two directions with a character like Accattone, a lazy two-bit pimp with a son by a woman who wants nothing to do with him: the sentimental route or the grotesque. One could easily imagine De Sica, the soft-heart of Neo-Realism, turning Accattone into a sympathetic, misunderstood Everyman. And one could just as easily imagine Fellini, the most uptight director maybe in history, transforming the character into a universal symbol of societal decay. Pasolini, neither a sentimentalist nor a moralist, sees Accattone not as a sympathetic character nor as a symbol. The least judgmental director maybe ever, Pasolini conceives his characters entirely in terms of their outward behavior, and not in moral terms. He neither psycho-analyzes nor seeks to "understand" his characters. He simply presents them as they are, warts and all.
It was always the purpose of Neo-Realism to present life as it was lived, not life as it was imagined by screenwriters, directors and actors, and there are few more successful ventures in this regard than Accattone. The film's main triumph is in its atmosphere. The Roman days have never seemed so sun-bleached, so arid and oppressive; its nights never so mysterious, so full of inexpressible longing (not even in Henry James). The characters seem bound to this world in a palpable way, their faces (shot by expert cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli) mirroring the desolation, the hopelessness, the strangeness of their surroundings. The movie's physicality, as always with Pasolini, is striking. But pure physical vigor, pure atmosphere isn't enough. Where Pasolini comes up short is in assembling the parts of his film into something with real emotional breadth. His first feature shows him already on his way to being a master of the image, but also shows that he had a lot to learn about being a master of cinematic rhythm. The strange blend of primitivism and modernism is already there but the command is not. It's a film that works well in the moment but feels thin as a whole. It's a triumph of Neo-Realist technique but it only half-succeeds as a film.
Half-successful Pasolini is still better than the best most directors have to give. If you can portray a character as repulsive, as boorish and ego-maniacal as Accattone - a character with few if any redeeming features - for two hours without alienating your audience...well, chalk one up for the director who can do that. Especially one who manages the trick without resorting to sentimental contrivance or the kind of false significance people like Fellini always tried to drum up by filling their movies with obvious symbols, the sorts of things art-film zombies love because it gives them a chance to show their alleged smarts. Pasolini never flatters his audience but he never sneers at them either. He attempts to neither ingratiate himself with the public nor antagonize it in the manner of certain self-important avant-gardists. The best artists look for what interests them in a piece of material, not worrying whether their ideas, their approach, their style is accessible to the public at large, or critics, or scholars, or their grandmothers or anyone else. Accattone shows Pasolini on the road that would make him one of cinema's best directors - a road traveled by precisely one person, Pasolini himself.
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